Express lane conversions on fast track
A major stage in the ongoing construction of the 95 Express Project Phase 2 – the installation of flexible plastic poles that will create a barrier between new express lanes and general use lanes – is to begin before year’s end.
The project, a partnership between the Florida Department of Transportation, the Planning and Transit departments of Miami-Dade and Broward counties, South Florida Commuter Services and Florida Turnpike Enterprise, will extend Phase 1 express lanes, completed in 2008 and running from Interstate 395 to the Golden Glades Interchange, to Broward Boulevard, said spokesperson Tish Burgher. Projected cost is $112 million.
Phase 2 got underway in November 2011, she said, and is expected to be completed next spring.
“Right now we have one High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lane and four regular use lanes,” Ms. Burgher said. “We are converting the HOV lane to an express lane, but also adding a new express lane in most places.”
While the existing HOV lanes are available at no cost to vehicles carrying at least two people, she said, the new express lanes will be tolled. Free use will be restricted to vehicles carrying three or more people, express transit service buses, motorcycles and, for the time being at least, hybrid vehicles.
“The legislation allowing hybrids sunsets in 2017,” Ms. Burgher said. Other personal vehicles may use the express lanes if users pay a toll. Users must have Sunpass transponders. The minimum toll is 50 cents.
“This is a dynamic toll,” she said, “that goes up when there are more vehicles in the express lane and down when there are fewer.”
The project’s intent is to decrease traffic congestion along the Interstate 95 corridor.
“Since Phase 1 has been operational,” Ms. Burgher said, “people in the express lanes and in the general use lanes have experienced increases in speed during peak travel times, which is what they are expected to do.
“We want to alert the public that we are nearing completion of construction over the next few months, so there will be changes on the roadway. Starting in the next two or three weeks, there will be nighttime lane closures. Riders need to be diligent and pay attention to maximize safety.”
Phase 2 also includes the installation of Intelligent Transportation System components, the modification of the Ives Dairy Road Interchange, bridge widening at some locations and installation of new noise walls between Hollywood Boulevard and Taft Street in Broward County.